Faculty do a lot of co-teaching at Wake Forest, so Erin has been able to co-teach with nearly everyone in her department. This includes developing the curriculum.
"We all came together to think about the four-year map. We tried to make intentional decisions about prerequisites that didn’t exclude students, and keep our curriculum flexible. Around 50% of our engineering students are studying abroad; around 50% are doing undergraduate research. We have football players, soccer players; the big time athletes majoring in engineering , we have Art majors double-majoring or minoring in engineering, because we have strived for such a flexible, inclusive curriculum. That’s our largest collective impact, I think.”
It’s also about growth - and failure.
“I try to be a model of mindset and demonstrate it for my students, but also show them that you can’t grow without failing. It’s not going to happen. Failing doesn’t feel good, but you can’t have a growth mindset without it. You won’t develop past a certain threshold without some level of discomfort, and we need to encourage students to lean into it instead of trying to resist. The entrepreneurial mindset provides a framework and vocabulary for us to talk about how to experience these things.”
This includes the shift we’ve been seeing in society. “Education talks about fearless problem-solving and resilience, but you have to provide a safe space to do that. This is because while education wants these things, they’re still so tied to your GPA. The two can’t coexist. Watching that tension play out has been interesting. Helping students navigate that tension is an opportunity. That’s entrepreneurial mindset in action.”
We couldn't let the opportunity slip by to ask about Erin's unique coinage of terms.
“I was joking to students that in the very first week of instrumentation class, we’re learning about things like Ohm’s Law, Kirchhoff’s Law, all the different units that go with electrical energy; people like Tesla and Edison. So I said, come up with a unit, a word, and publish it somewhere, and now it’s yours! And then I did it myself. The ‘labture’ came from me running my mouth one day about having “lab” every day in class as part of their lecture, and then I had to put my money where my mouth was. We’re going to have to put rubrics to it and grade it. I don’t know what that is yet, but it’s going to be a thing.”
“The goal for this instrumentation class was I wanted them doing something hands-on every day,” Erin continues. “I didn’t want a single class period where it was only lecture, and I also didn’t want it to be only problems like hand-calculation problem-solving, because we had a lot of learning we wanted them to do. So how to get all that done, the class time had to focus on the equipment available in class. We saved things like the paper problem-solving for out of class time."